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Parade held to encourage SWFL Latinos to vote by mail, take part in census

We spoke to the event organizers of a parade Monday about a new approach to encourage Latinos in Southwest Florida to vote.

The parade was designed to encourage Hispanics to take part in the 2020 U.S. Census and vote by mail.

“We wanted to encourage the Latino vote,” said James Pirone, a Blue Gator Initiative volunteer.

“Why are we not going after the vote?” said Joan Burton, who helped organize the parade. “We need everybody to have a voice.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 26% of Florida’s population is Hispanic, but only 14% of those community members are registered to vote.

The organizers of the parade argue the best way to get their voices heard is through the census and at the ballot box.

“I’ve never voted by mail, by the way,” Burton said. “But , this year, I’m voting by mail.”

“You fill it out you and mail it in, so it’s safe, and it’s healthy,” Pirone said.

The Blue Gator Initiative identifies itself as a Democratic resistance group.

Other Democratic-leaning organizations are suing the state, hoping to eliminate vote-by-mail deadlines and laws limiting who can collect vote-by-mail ballots and return them to local election offices.

The Republican Party of Florida says the lawsuit exposes Florida to potential fraud.

And President Donald Trump agrees.

“We don’t want them to do mail-in ballots because it will lead to total election fraud,” Trump said publicly. “We don’t want them to do mail-in ballots. We don’t want anyone to do mail in ballots.”

In 2018 in Lee County, 51% of all voters voted by mail.

In Florida, qualified voters must request a vote-by-mail ballot, which is the same as an absentee ballot.

Under Florida law, the voter is not required to give a reason when asking for a mail-in ballot.

Reporter:Andrea Guerrero
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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